The City of Great Falls has released details about this year's Independence Day celebrations, which will take place on Saturday, July 4th. Under the direction of the Cascade City-County Health Department and the City of Great Falls, the organizers of the parade and the fireworks show have developed plans following Phase 2 guidelines and COVID-19 measures.
PARADE: To allow for social distancing, the parade will follow an longer route this year. This year’s parade begins at 11:00 am with roads in and around the parade route closing at 10:00 am. Parade organizers have doubled the parade route to accommodate more spectators. The parade starts at the corner of 2nd Avenue South and 2nd Street heading east on 2nd Avenue South to 7th Street, turning left to 1st Avenue South, then west on 1st Avenue South, turning right on Park Drive, then East on Central Avenue, turning left on 8th Street North to 1st Avenue North, then west on 1st Avenue North. The parade will end at the intersection of Park Drive and 1st Avenue North.
Lola Sheldon-Galloway, the parade organizer, explained that there will be "people pods" and "neutral zones" along the extended 30-block parade route. Each pod area will be marked off and numbered with highway candles and caution tape to mark designated "do not use" areas.
Sheldon-Galloway also provided the following guidance and advice:
- Please plan to arrive early if you are parking in the parking lots that are available within our perimeter. We are requesting that if you have parked within the barriers of the parade route in a parking lot that you drive south out of the area and then proceed to 9th Street as the barriers are being removed for cars exiting the parade area. Please drive slowly and be aware of those spectators walking, other cars exiting, and our crews cleaning up the parade and removing the barricades and highway candles. We will assist you in the safest way to get out of the area. If you have any questions, PLEASE ask our parade marshals. They are the volunteers in the golf carts.
- We have been asked to create 30’ wide People Pods with 10’ barriers between them. We are asking that your group not be more than 25 people. These will be self-governed. We ask that you know who you are sitting by or get to know them so the Health Department will be able to conduct contact tracing in the event that one of you should come down with COVID-19.
- Plan to hydrate yourselves, WE WILL NOT BE HANDING OUT WATER FOR YOU ALONG THE PARADE ROUTE. Because of COVID-19, there will be NO TOLERANCE for any handing out of ANY items during the parade. No hand-to-hand or throwing of candy or other items. Violation of City Ordinance 12.5.040 B. whose general penalty is $500.00 or incarcerated for a period not to exceed (6) month, or both. The Health Department is demanding this be enforced; please adhere to this ordinance.
FIREWORKS SHOW: The annual fireworks show will also take place in Great Falls thanks to the People’s Park & Recreation Foundation’s Fireworks Forever Fund, and a donation from Steel Etc. and Jimmy and Debbie Filipowicz. In an effort to limit crowd size, two fireworks shows will be held simultaneously - one at West Bank Park, and one at Centene Stadium. Both displays will begin at 10:30 p.m. At 6:00 am, both West Bank Park and Elks’ Riverside Park will be closed all day to the public to avoid large group gatherings and potential COVID-19 exposure. River Drive between 1st Ave. North and 6th Street will also be closed all day, starting at 6:00 am.
FIREWORKS SAFETY: People discharging fireworks within Great Falls city limits must comply with the fireworks ordinance which will be enforced by police officers and firefighters.
Primary rules and regulations include:
- The selling and discharging of fireworks within the incorporated limits of Great Falls can only take place on July 2, 3 and 4 from 8:00 a.m. to midnight (per City Code - §9.9).
- Children under the age of 10 partaking in the firework festivities must have a supervising adult within 10 feet, in order to control the application of flame or other means to discharge the firework.
- Residents should only discharge fireworks on private property (sidewalk leading to your residence and or driveway) and should always clean up any trash that is left behind from the discharging of fireworks.
Offenses can be fined as follows: 1st offense - $100, 2nd offense - $200, 3rd offense - $300.
Great Falls Fire Rescue provided these safety tips to keep in mind if you plan to discharge fireworks:
- Read Directions – Read the cautionary labels and directions before discharging.
- Discharge Outdoors – Always use fireworks outside in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
- Keep Fireworks away from Others - Never point or throw fireworks at another person or place any part of your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse.
- One at a Time - Light fireworks one at a time, then move back to a safe distance quickly.
- Have Water Handy! – Have a bucket of water or a water hose nearby to prevent a possible fire. Always remember to douse discharged fireworks with water once they have completely burned before throwing the fireworks away to prevent a trash fire.
- Adult Supervision - A responsible adult should always closely supervise all fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Clean it Up - Always clean up used fireworks when finished (make sure they are doused with water!).
- Prevent Injury – Fireworks should never be carried in a pocket or be shot off in metal or glass containers.Fireworks should be used on a solid, flat level surface. Never use altered fireworks. Not only are they dangerous, they can also be illegal.
- Sparklers - Sparklers can burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers.
- It Didn’t Light - If a firework does not work, leave it alone. Do not try to relight it. Pour water on it.
- Buying Fireworks – Purchase fireworks only from reliable outlets. Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper or packaging. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
The City says that people should consider that not everyone loves fireworks. They ask that you be a good neighbor and be sensitive to others when choosing to discharge them. Fireworks can disrupt those sleeping, scare pets, and can be an issue for veterans. Great Falls Fire Rescue wants the community to enjoy the 4th of July and to remember that fireworks, even when used properly, have the potential to cause fires and accidents. Follow the law, have fun, and be safe!